A smart, funny, forthright librarian in book form.

A librarian delivers a charming epistolary volume that begs to be read with pencil in hand.

In her debut book, Spence celebrates some of modern literature’s darlings while scathingly reducing other works to pulp. Covering selections from across a vast range of subjects and genres, the author delivers flirty essays and cruel-to-be-kind rejection letters to books as she “weeds” her library’s collection. Unafraid to take shots at publishing’s most lucrative franchises, her letters to Nicholas Sparks and the Twilight series convey the exasperation of a woman who has seen these books checked out constantly while worthier books remain on the shelf. “You made me say ‘erotica’ to an old lady, Grey,” Spence admonishes E.L. James’ Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian. “I’m going to hate you forever for that!” Valedictions to obscure nonfiction works—e.g., Better Homes and Gardens Dieting for One—signal shifting societal mores and remind us of the never-ending nature of a librarian’s job curating a collection. “Just looking at you makes me feel as if I’m squandering my life,” she writes to The Leisure Alternatives Catalog, 1979. "We can’t all be art-cinema buffs and sailing experts like you.” Readers will find plenty to agree with—the letter to the Frog and Toad books is delightful—and plenty to take issue with—only one work of Russian literature is included—as well as an amusingly disproportionate amount of time devoted to the work of Jeffrey Eugenides. We also get letters to nonbooks that every bookish person will appreciate: a love letter to the library in Beauty and the Beast, a note to an acquaintance’s too-perfect bookshelf. In the hearty second section, Spence provides a useful list of references, recommendations, and resources. Among the other notable works discussed include books by Agatha Christie, Stephen King, Walter Mosley, and Judy Blume.

A smart, funny, forthright librarian in book form.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-10649-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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